County receives funding requests

STEUBENVILLE – Jefferson County commissioners Thursday received several requests for funding, including a 211 referral help line that is in operation in more than half of the state.

The United Way or Jefferson County received a $22,00 grant from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services through the Ohio United Way to establish the 211 informational and referral service.

Once the system is up and running, residents can call 211 at any time for referrals to nonprofit social service agencies for help on such matters as getting food, shelter, clothing, rent and utility assistance, foreclosure help and job assistance. The call will be answered by a trained specialist who will connect the caller with the appropriate agency. The calls will be answered by the United Way of Greater Stark County.

Beth Rupert-Warren, United Way of Jefferson County executive director, said the 211 service is set to begin on Feb. 11. Jefferson County will become the 55th county in the state to have the service.

“This service will connect individuals, families and professional to the information needed to meet the needs of residents of Jefferson County,” she said. “This will resolve the current lack of efficient access to health and human services in just one call. Having 211 available will mean that many calls to local government agencies and 911 will be avoided.”

The United Way of Jefferson County is seeking $10,000 from the commissioners for operational funds for the service.

County Commissioner Thomas Graham said the board will take the funding request under advisement until after the county’s 2013 budget is finalized. He said the county is allowed to make the contribution.

County Commissioner David Maple said he wants the United Way of Jefferson County to tell the board how the goals of 211 will be measured and met.

“We want to hear the benefits of the service,” Maple said.

Commissioners also received a request for $25,000 in county recreation money to help pay the utility costs at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Steubenville.

Steubenville City Manager Cathy Davison said the city is trying to sustain parks and recreation opportunities in the city with a declining city budget. She said the city is working within the community to provide programming and staffing for the center.

Graham said the $25,000 is only a small portion of the $200,000 needed for the center’s operation.

The commissioners approved the $25,000 funding be taken out of the recreation funds generated by the county’s piggyback sales tax revenue. The county every year donates about $160,000 to cities, townships and villages throughout the county for recreation programs. Steubenville usually gets about $20,000 a year.

Maple said he supports providing the money, considering how important the facility is to the community.

“On behalf of City Council and the parks and recreation board, I want to thank the Jefferson County commissioners for recognizing the importance of the programs offered at the MLK Center for youth and seniors,” Davison said after the meeting. “With their funding, it means that 50 percent of the utilities would be paid and we can focus on partnerships with stakeholders in the community to continue the important programming offered at the MLK Center.”

Commissioners also agreed to provide Historic Fort Steuben with $4,000 in funding to make improvements to the First Federal Land Office.

Commissioners also got the signed contracts back from Smithfield for the county’s takeover of the village’s water system.

Shannon Gosbin, county water and sewer department director, said she was concerned with the customer list provided by the village. She said the customer list should only have had about 470 names, but the village provided a list containing 750 customers. She said village officials said the large list includes everyone who was a customer at one time. Gosbin said she needs a current list of customers.

County Commissioner Tom Gentile said the commissioners next week will formally accept the agreement. He also wants a timeline on how the county’s water and sewer department will move forward with the Smithfield water system. He said a lot of new water meters will have to be installed, and he wants to know the impact it will have on the water and sewer department’s staff.

Commissioners also addressed the ongoing odor complaints surrounding the Apex Landfill outside Amsterdam, Fritz Tulencik of the Tri-County Concerned Citizens group, said the county health department now claims the odor is coming from faulty septic tanks in the area of the landfill.

Commissioners said they will ask the county health department to address the issue, since faulty septic tanks falls under the purview of the health department.

Tulencik said the county health department and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency continue to make excuses for the odors.

Gentile said the Ohio EPA, which inspects the landfill, gets funding from tipping fees at the Apex Landfill, and “then turns their back on the problems.”

Maple said there is a conflict in the Ohio EPA getting tipping fees and then inspecting the landfill.

Graham said Apex has not been a “good neighbor.”

Commissioners reiterated they have no say in the licensing of the landfill.

Commissioners also:

Approved a 25 percent weight reduction for truck hauling on 59 various county roads during the frost-thaw season of Feb. 1 through April 30 at the request of the county engineer’s department.

Agreed to advertise for bids for the county engineer’s department annual tree removal program on county rights of way on three county roads. The engineer’s estimate is $40,000.

Approved a $198,850 contract with N.F. Mansuetto & Sons of Martins Ferry to replace the roof at the county job and family services department. The engineer’s estimate was $290,000.